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Errant spark from underground explosion sparks brushfire at CFB Comox

Military firefighters, Comox Fire Rescue knock down fire
An air ambulance has landed at the K’ómoks First Nation to assist a driver who is trapped in their vehicle at the top of Comox Road. Photo by Mike Chouinard

An errant spark from an underground controlled explosion at CFB Comox Wednesday morning (Aug. 11) created a brush fire with a plume that could be seen throughout the town.

Around 11:10 a.m., the 19 Wing Comox fire department reported a grass fire near the northeast side of the base, close to Windslow Road. A mutual aid request was placed for assistance for Comox Fire Rescue to assist with the fire.

CFB Comox Base Commander Col. Bryn Elliott confirmed the brush fire began at 19 Wing’s EOD – explosive ordnance disposal – range.

“Normally we don’t do any of these things during the hot summer months; however, we did have a locker that was full of unexploded ordinance and we did have some civilian contractors coming into that building, so to ensure their safety, we decided to do a controlled explosion – subterranean.”

Technicians along with 19 Wing Comox firefighters soaked the ground surrounding the area to ensure safety, but due to winds that were not expected to be gusting, the fire did spread quickly.

Elliott said the fire ended up spreading to 300 metres, all of which was contained to the base.

Some witnesses reported seeing the fire on the opposite side of a CFB Comox fence; however, the property is that of the Department of National Defence.

”Firefighters used a hydrant on the Kye Bay side but they brought it through just outside the base – that’s why you saw movement just outside the base,” Elliott noted. “From my perspective – it is absolutely contained.”

He added firefighters are going to keep the area soaked down until sunset and will continue Thursday morning to ensure all hot spots are contained.

WestJet flight 491 arriving from Calgary was set to land shortly before noon at the airport but circled north of the airfield multiple times as it waited for the runway to be cleared.

The flight was not in any danger, Elliott said, as it circled for about 20 minutes. A second flight set to take off was also delayed.

He added 19 Wing will be looking at their procedures in order to prevent a similar incident from happening in the future.

UPDATE: One person airlifted from Comox accident scene

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A plume of smoke could be seen near the Comox Valley Airport Wednesday morning after a report of a grass fire on base at 19 Wing Comox. Photo by Rod Hamerston